R.I.P HOWARD MARKS
A statement from Larry Love on the passing of our good friend Howard Marks...
Brothers and sisters serving in the regiments of love, we lost a general yesterday. Any of you familiar with Alabama 3's antics, will be fully aware of how much Howard was often a part of the proceedings...
From writing sleeve notes to Peace In The Valley, to introducing us to a packed out crowd in Glastonbury, where he spoke for 17 minutes on the topic of wizardry, all of it in Welsh. He nursemaided me through many a hangover, he frequented our club Brixton Jamm on many occasions and stumbled like a conquistador into so many of our dressing rooms, getting us stoned a thousand times. So bow down your head soldiers and reach for the king-size, and blaze one up for my favourite valley boyo.
I wanted to tell you all about the last 6 months with Howard, because I think its a story worth sharing, and one you might like to hear....
Yesterday afternoon, as I sat sipping over a limey lager on the Thames, my phone rang with the sad news of our friend Howard's passing. Ironically, I was sat just opposite the MI5 and MI6 buildings, the sun was shining and there was a mystic atmosphere in the air. Howard was a great mystic.
I imagined all those Oxford graduate buggers who had sat across in those buildings all those years ago, tirelessly chasing their old university mate Howard, who had graduated with the same prestigious qualifications, only to become one of the most legendary drug smugglers in history.
I poured a large whiskey into the Thames, raising it first to the backdrop of the British establishment, the very folk who Howard had spent his life running circles around. And to my left was the Tate Britain - I thought about the story Howard had told me when he once spent hours covered in bubble wrap, as he stood in a warehouse next to the sculpture which he had effectively used to smuggle copious amounts of dope into the UK, waiting for his opportune moment to crack out of a crate.
Howard adventured through life, charming his way out of a variety of situations. As a fellow Welsh valley boy, he appreciated the work of Alabama 3, particularly enjoying the fact that we were throwing two fingers up to a new variety of music called Britpop, by mixing American Country music with his beloved Acid House.
It was the Acid House scene that Howard used as the backdrop to his latest and final book 'Mr Smiley, My Last Pill and Testament'. You can imagine my dismay when my management phoned me to inform me that Howard had asked if I would voice his audio recorded version. It gave me an opportunity for countless hours on the phone with Howard. I plotted with him, that like the sensational Daniel Day Lewis I would take on the opportunity to try out some method acting, or 'methadone acting' as we joked. Of course, I settled for getting totally stoned, so that I would hopefully take on that charming drawn out way he spoke - the soothing tone that could make any situation seem calmer.
When we finally completed work on the audio book and sent it off, they informed us of a delay in release due to the fact that Howard was too sick to read the forward. I knew the end was coming, and the symbiosis I had felt with him, after literally 'becoming him' for 2 weeks made this news all the harder to take. Then I started to become terrified. I realized the magnitude of what he had trusted me with, to be his voice for what really was 'his last testament'. That title had failed to conjure up the inevitability of his cancer until now. He had wiggled his way out of so many brushes with the law and death - surely he'd find a way to do the same now?
A month ago I received a beautiful text from Howard. He had heard the final audio recording and graciously thanked me for my work on the project. For me the thanks was the wrong way round - he had humbled me by asking me to read the book in the first place. What an honour.
Last week, when a copy of the completed audio book arrived at the studio we joked at how relentless the recording process had been. At one point there were four rooms in Brixton Jamm booming out the disturbing voice of Larry Love, as it was simultaneously recorded, mixed, edited and checked by a tiny team of four. It had sent us mad for 2 weeks. Our producer Wizard and I had stumbled over Spanish pronunciations and recorded 378 pages of audio together, our studio engineer Claudio cut through a splendid variety of takes, littered with frustrated curse words. Even my label coordinator Tee quit managing me for half a day because I had driven her to to the point of insanity that no one returns from too easily.
But when we held the final product in our hands for the first time last week we laughed - 6 hours of Larry Love reading a bedtime story about ecstasy. We gathered round our copy and could only feel proud and privileged to have been the team chosen to bring this story to life.
I last saw Howard at The Kentish Town Forum, where Alabama 3 participated in his fundraising event. We sat on the tour bus for hours afterwards sharing anecdotes of life and everything he said had a graceful wisdom to it more potent than ever. But there was also a knowing-ness that the end was near too. He had spent years being followed by special agents, enjoying the chase. I laughed at his recent tweet, something along the lines of how for years he had been followed by the FBI, and now by means of Twitter, he was able to follow them. It was as if something new was following him now, and catching up with him, though he managed to outrun it much longer than anyone expected him to. All we could do was colour the final journey, however we could.
It's nice to be alive sometimes. Yesterday I felt that more than ever. The finality of death is something powerful indeed. It hasn't yet started to feel real that he's gone.
Thank you Howard. May your strobe light never stop shining, and your smoke machine keep burning, and your Acid House party go on all night long.
Tonight we smoke the green green grass of home.
Much love to you my brother.
Larry Love, Alabama 3
*For anyone interested in reading or hearing Mr. Smiley, it is currently available from Amazon.